Fab floor: 10 popular flooring options to think about for your home
- Credit: PA
The unsung heroes of every room, Luke Rix-Standing runs through the key pros and cons of some of the most popular flooring materials.
They may not be the latest 3D-printed armchair or voice-activated speaker system, but your floors are, quite literally, the foundation of your home.
A classic blend of fashion and function, a floor must tie a room together while fulfilling a range of - very important - practical requirements too. While aesthetics are a key consideration, in general, flooring should be relatively unobtrusive. It’s the defensive midfielder of home decor: If you don’t notice it, it’s probably doing a good job.
Different flooring options will suit different parts of the home, so it’s vital to think carefully before coming to a decision. You don’t want your bathroom floor going soggy from shower spray, or a cold playroom surface punishing your children’s knees, for instance.
Here’s a look at 10 of the most common options - what they’re good at, and what they’re not...
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Summarising wood flooring is like summarising a clothing fabric - there’s a lot of different forms it could take. Oft-neglected softwood floors can work wonders in low-footfall areas, but as the name suggests, they can struggle with the rough and tumble of a busy family home. Most modern wood floors are hardwood - highly coveted surfaces that can also add serious value to a property.
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Relatively pricey, prone to scratching and potentially sensitive to moisture, hardwood flooring is nevertheless popular in living areas for its elegant appearance and underfoot warmth. For a tougher, cheaper alternative, try laminate - fibreboard printed with a high-res image of a wooden finish, which these days can look practically as good as the real thing.
For such a popular flooring choice, tile has a long list of drawbacks: It’s relatively difficult to repair if it cracks or gets damaged; the grouting easily accumulates dirt; sock wearers risk slipping; it gets extremely cold in wintertime - and it’s not even that cheap.
But a tough, durable surface makes tile pet-friendly, and most flooring shops offer a near-infinite array of colours and patterns - from Victorian florals to abstract collage - so in terms of aesthetic appeal and style, the possibilities really are endless and tiles can look truly striking. The bathroom surface of choice for generations of homeowners, being easy to clean, tiling also brushes up nicely in the kitchen and pantry.
A go-to for rooms with soft furnishings, carpet can be both chic and cosy has refreshingly clear pros and cons. The good: It’s warm, insulating, generally cheaper than wood or tile, and can be fashioned into almost any design. The bad: Stains easily, struggles with moisture, traps dust and pet hair, and needs to be replaced when worn down. And while we’re at it, the ‘ugly’: The infamously tasteless carpets at Las Vegas casinos.
Do - bedroom and sitting room. Don’t - bathroom and kitchen.
Cork floors aren’t as common a sight as they perhaps once were - but, honestly, we’re not sure why. Soft to the touch, naturally insulating against sound and temperature, relatively cheap and eco-friendly, the reddish-brown patterns tally particularly well with hardwood furniture. The drawbacks? Fades in direct sunlight, prone to water damage, and may distort under table legs and other pressure points.
The IKEA wardrobe of home flooring, this low-cost option is all the rage among practical homeowners with middling budgets. Approachable prices partner with a performance level that reliably returns more than you paid for.
Vinyl looks pretty good (there are lots more design options available now), insulates well, repels water and soaks up high footfall nicely - but it can be prone to fading in sunlight and is easily dented by sharp objects. Vinyl lacks the elegance of hardwood and the comfort of cork or carpet, but it’s a functional surface that will serve you well with some tender loving care.
Strange though it may seem, this staple of the multi-storey car park is also a creditable option for your front room or kitchen floor. Virtually indestructible, concrete adds a modern, almost post-industrial vibe to the home, and partners well with underfloor heating. But the sturdiness comes at the expense of comfort - it’s really hard - and even well-finished surfaces can look a little bleak. At least you’ll have plenty of excuses to go rug shopping.
A little left turn, we’ll admit - but this unconventional pick is sure to raise eyebrows, if just from the slight bounce it elicits when stepped on. A highly durable choice, with superb sound insulation.
However, rubber can also be more on the expensive side, and difficult to clean. It’s commonly used for it’s shock-absorbing qualities - think spaces with a high risk of heavy objects being dropped, such as gyms. Rubber is a horse for a course: Perfect for a music room or home gym, and possibly a bold choice for style junkies elsewhere in the house.
Given that most of the world’s rocks have looked after themselves just fine for centuries, it should come as no surprise that a stone floor is supremely hard-wearing and low-maintenance. Literally hewn from the ground, stone tiles are eco-friendly and ideal for high footfall areas like hallways.
On the flip-side, imperfections may result in a surface that’s uneven - literally and stylistically - while a high-ish price tag puts off some buyers. Stone tiles can also be foot-freezingly cold in winter, and for God’s sake don’t drop any plates.
If your domestic vision involves grand banisters, neo-classical columns and high-end toga parties, then marble is a go-to (we jest - it’s an all-round stunning material). But there are cons too... It can chip, costs the earth, and can be dangerously slippy under slippers or socks. Long a linchpin of luxury, a marble floor could well add serious value to a home, but comes with severe cold feet syndrome, and weeks of bruising every time you bump your knee.
A relative newcomer to the flooring scene, bamboo has found a growing niche with eco-conscious householders looking to go au naturel. The world’s fastest growing plant (technically a species of oversized grass), bamboo is attractively textured, goes well with modern interiors, and is highly sustainable. Bamboo can be fairly expensive though and will need a little more TLC than some of the hardier materials. Lots of appeal, but be sure to do your research before you buy.